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Country News - 2004

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Chancellor hits countryside – again

Monday 22 March 2004

JUST a week after Chancellor Gordon Brown angered farmers with his budget, he is reported today to be considering another attack on rural life – by putting market towns at risk.

It is reported this morning that the Chancellor has overridden policies from other departments designed to protect traditional High Streets by lifting the ban preventing further expansion of out-of-town developments for supermarkets and other chain stores.

This will enrage conservation bodies like the Campaign to Protect Rural England – which later this week id due to issue a concerned report on the state of market towns – but it also makes a nonsense of work by Government bodies trying to breath life back into rural High Streets.

These include DEFRA and the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, which have spent millions of pounds on projects like the Market Town Renaissance Programme, which includes (with admittedly mixed results) both Skipton and Settle in the Yorkshire Dales.

One observer commented: “The High Streets in all small Craven towns have suffered already because of out-of-town shopping complexes. More would turn the situation from bad into disastrous.

“This seems to be a typical case of one Government hand not knowing what the other is doing. Once again, if today’s reports are correct, the Government is caving in to pressure from big business, which puts profits before all other considerations.”

In his budget last week, Mr Brown increased the duty on red diesel fuel used by farmers in tractors and other vehicles – which the NFU says will add millions to the nation’s food bill – and also declined to reduce the duty on “bio-fuels” produced from grown crops.


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